The history of fireworks is a long one. It is filled with myth and legend. However, the one thing that seems certain is that it was created in China.
There are several legends surrounding the origin of firecrackers. One of the most popular goes like this: a cook was cooking with charcoal and sulfur. It was then put in a bamboo and it erupted. There is confusion though because the origin of gunpowder and firecrackers were often intertwined. Another story has it that a Chinese monk named Li Tian in Hunan invented fireworks a thousand years ago.
Whether this is the true history of fireworks or not, there’s an offering every April 18 made to Li Tian made in Hunan province. There is another theory which states the crackers originated in the 8th century. It was invented sometime during the Song Dynasty. As stated, the exact date when it was invented may never be known for certain.
Firecrackers in Europe
There are several theories as to how firecrackers came to Europe. One theory is that Marco Polo came across it during one of his many travels. This could have taken place in the 13th century.
Another popular theory is that they were brought in by the Crusades. The idea is that the Chinese traders did business with the Arabs and Muslims. When the Crusaders came, they took the gunpowder and firecrackers home with them. It became a big hit in Europe, particularly in Germany and Italy.
Firecrackers in England
Any discussion of the history of fireworks won’t be complete without mentioning its role in English culture. They were used not just for making weapons but also celebrations like in China.
Queen Elizabeth I was fascinated by them. She went as far as to create a Fire Master of England. The kings and queens began marking their coronation with fireworks, most notably James II. Firecrackers were also mentioned frequently in Shakespeare’s works.
Firecrackers in America
The European settlers brought along the firecrackers with them to the New World. The Americans quickly embraced it. The Independence Day celebrations in 1777 were marked by these spectacles. So was the inauguration of President George Washington. From that time on, fireworks have become part in most major celebrations and festivals in the United States.
The history of fireworks in America followed that in Europe and China. They became used in celebrations. In China, they remain a mainstay in New Year festivities and Moon Festival. In the US and Europe they have also become part of the New Year revelry. It is also a common practice in most Asian countries.
There are now numerous types of firecrackers. There are several competitions around the world that showcase the various types. There are ground and aerial displays, stars and various shapes. They now come in different colors. These displays are now known for their ability to change colors and rotate. The safety standards have also improved.
Although they have gone through changes, the history of fireworks has one constant. It is used by people to express joy and create a festive atmosphere.